Monday, September 17, 2007

Warren Jeffs Trial

I wrote last year upon the occasion of the arrest of Warren Jeffs, the leader of the FLDS polygamist cult,

So Warren Jeffs has presided over a community in which 13 year old girls are raped, and 13 year old boys are dumped on the street with nothing and told not to come back....

Over the past three years, under the leadership of Arizona authorities, primarily Attorney General Terry Goddard, along with authorities in Utah, progress has been made in gaining control over the group. The resources of the church (which includes all the polygamist homes-- none of the people who live in them actually own their building) have been ordered by a judge to be controlled by a group of outside trustees for the benefit of the community and individuals within it. Where crimes are discovered, they have been prosecuted, and in particular Jeffs will now be prosecuted.

And that will hopefully be the beginning of the end for this nightmare of what amounts to sexual slavery, or of exile, for the children of Colorado City and Hildale.

As I've said many times, I don't care what any consenting adult does with any other consenting adult, but in this case, there is much justice that needs to, and I hope will, be served in our court system.

Jeffs is specifically being tried in St. George for his role in forcing a then-fourteen year old girl to marry her cousin. Today his defense got their turn and tried to undermine the testimony of the victim (who is now 21 and has fled the church) by getting her to say she never cried 'rape.' In fact, her case is somewhat unusual in that she was actually her cousin's first wife, and her cousin was 19 at the time, while some young girls have had to marry men as old as in their sixties and become plural wives.

WHAT?! That's supposed to be a defense? How likely is it that a fourteen year old, who has been told by someone who she believes is a prophet of God (Jeffs) that she will be eternally damned if she does not go along with it, will scream 'rape' when she is being ravaged by someone who as far as she knows is her lawful husband? I'd like to ask whether any female children growing up in Colorado City or Hildale were ever advised to scream, 'rape' if they were married against their will.

Warren Jeffs is simply put a man who has done a great deal of harm to the young people in his community. Two years ago, I blogged on The Real Lost Boys: And it's Usually Not a Happy Ending about the young teenage men of Colorado City and Hildale who are dumped out into the world possessing rudimentary construction skills, zero social skills and in many cases have never read any book other than the Bible or the Book of Mormon. Many of them end up in prison, on drugs or dead, while others live on the fringes of society in small groups all over southern Utah looking for whatever work they can find.

And the Lost Boys continue to be an overlooked issue (though last year Jeffs and his associates settled a civil suit filed by six of them). However this trial is focused on what happened to the girls.

And that is just as ugly, if not uglier than what he has done to the boys. Young girls forced to marry, often to men old enough to be their father (and then being their fourth or fifth wife at that.) They are raped, and forced to obey, with the knowledge that they will be beaten if they do not (and with the always present admonition from Jeffs that damnation awaits them if they don't obey.) Then later they have to raise their own daughters to a similar fate, and pray that their sons are among the lucky few who get to stay.

I hope that this prosecution is successful. Deconstructing the web of lies, bondage and misery that is at the core of FLDS will take time, but a successful prosecution of Warren Jeffs will be a giant step in that direction.


thephoenixnyc said...

Wow, that's just awful.

Democracy Lover said...

It seems to me that although Jeffs clearly bears some culpability here, he was not responsible for the care and safety of the girl involved - her parents had that responsibility. If her parents instructed her that Warren Jeffs was a prophet of God to whom she must submit, then they are more responsible for this crime than Jeffs.

To do some deeper thought on this issue, there are 2 contributing factors that must be considered:
- Parents who teach their children to believe in religious nonsense that includes fear of eternal damnation.
- The ban on polygamy itself.

If there were no legal ban on polygamy, but a strict law that no one could be married until age 18, regardless of parent's wishes, would that change the lifestyle of groups like the FLDS? If parents were obligated to send their children to public schools and they were taught comparative religion and basic science, would their susceptibility to bogus religious claims be as great?

Eli Blake said...

democracy lover:

I pointed that out in the post I just recently made about Jeffs.